Socially Responsible Magic: Values, Assumptions, and Internal Work

Socially Responsible Magic: Values, Assumptions, and Internal Work July 8, 2015

[Author’s Note: This is my final post for Patheos. I’ve enjoyed writing for the Agora channel, especially on the subjects I’ve written about, but I’ve decided to put more time into some of my other writing projects. Thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting.]

I’m reading Exorcising the Tree of Evil by William G. Gray. The title alone is interesting, with several possible ways it can be interpreted. What I find really interesting though is Gray’s perspective on the terms positive and negative. He points out that people have tendency to equate positive with good and negative with evil, and as a result miss something fundamental.

ScandinavianStock /
ScandinavianStock /

He explains in the following quote:

An absolute phobia has arisen concerning what is presumed to be ‘negative thought’. People have been pre-conditioned to the presumption that if they want to ‘think successful’ they will automatically attract to themselves whatever they think about. If they want to be rich they must ‘think riches’. If they want to be popular they must think everybody loves them and so on. Under no circumstances must they ever imagine anything evil or adverse ever happening to them. All they have to do is keep visualizing ‘positive prosperity’ – and it will be theirs. Somehow they identify the term ‘negative’ with all that is bad and undesirable, while the word ‘positive’ means what-ever may be good and pleasant. This completely erroneous association of words with values has probably caused more confusion than many other man-made mistakes.

There’s a lot there to ponder, but what I take away from it is how important it is to recognize that assigning absolute values to the concepts of positive and negative can cause you to miss out on actually understanding positive and negative as they show up in your life. As a writer and a magician, I find that its very important to examine the values we associate with words, because those values can lead us to making assumptions that actually keep us from effectively bringing change into our lives.

For example, if you associate the value of evil with adversity, then every time you experience adversity, you’ll think that you’re experiencing evil. However adversity isn’t inherently evil and can actually be positive because of how it teaches you to adapt to situations that come up in your life. Indeed, if you never encounter adversity it can be hard to develop a sense of connection and empathy with other people and their experiences.  This can, consequently, lead to treating those people poorly because of your lack of empathy. There is a role for adversity, and it isn’t inherently evil or good. We polarize the experiences we have, but the danger of doing that is that we may create a tunnel vision that stops us from really being present with the experience and learning from it.

A significant part of my own magical work involves internal work, meditation, and other techniques that are used to unpack the various assumptions, beliefs, etc.. Doing this work has taught me that you can learn from any type of experience, but what you learn is shaped by your outlook. Unless you are willing to unpack and explore what you bring to those experiences, you may find yourself limited in ways that aren’t serving you.

What are the values you bring to your life, magical work, etc., and how are you exploring those values to determine if they are serving you or holding you back (or both)?

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